Continental Philosophy Review

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 141–165

The enigma of reversibility and the genesis of sense in Merleau-Ponty


DOI: 10.1007/s11007-010-9144-7

Cite this article as:
Morris, D. Cont Philos Rev (2010) 43: 141. doi:10.1007/s11007-010-9144-7


This article clarifies Merleau-Ponty’s enigmatic, later concept of reversibility by showing how it is connected to the theme of the genesis of sense. The article first traces reversibility through “Eye and Mind” and The Visible and the Invisible, in ways that link reversibility to a theme of the earlier philosophy, namely an interrelation in which activity and passivity reverse to one another. This linkage is deepened through a detailed study of a passage on touch in the Phenomenology’s chapter on “Sensing,” which shows how reversibility is important to the genesis of sense, not from some already given origin, but through a creative operation within being, beyond the perceiver, wherein the field of perception internally diverges into active and passive moments. The article connects this point about the genesis of sense to themes in Merleau-Ponty’s lectures on institution and passivity. Altogether the article shows how reversibility is a sign of a divergence and thence of a sort of gap or excess in being that allows for a genesis of sense within being itself.


Merleau-PontyPhenomenologyReversibilityGenesis of senseMeaningTouchActivityPassivityInstitution

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentConcordia UniversityMontréalCanada